Countering Supply Chain Exhaustion with Labeling Technology

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Technology to improve operational efficiency is becoming increasingly essential for manufacturers and logistics companies looking to streamline the supply chain and modernize warehouse operations.

The ongoing pandemic, increased e-commerce activity, global conflicts, and longstanding infrastructure issues are driving businesses to look for ways to save time, reduce costs, and improve accuracy. . Challenges include:

  • Changing consumer behavior. Supply chains are struggling to keep pace with increased online ordering and higher expectations for quick turnaround. According Deloitte Research62% of consumer spending is expected to be done online, with 85% of consumers expecting free delivery or a nominal fee for expedited delivery.
  • Shortages of raw materials and finished products. Global manufacturing and shipping stoppages and interruptions limit the availability of key components, leading to cascading shortage issues.
  • Labor shortages. In today’s extremely tight labor market, companies need to increase productivity while creating a positive experience to recruit and retain workers.
  • Limited storage space. Manufacturers’ reliance on just-in-time inventory approaches over the past few decades has resulted in steep reductions in warehouse capacity, affecting their ability to be resilient and agile in today’s environment.
  • Outdated technology. Too many companies continue to rely on expensive and inflexible legacy technologies to manage warehouse operations.

Innovative labeling technologies

Labeling processes for inventory, asset management, receiving, shipping, and pricing have typically been laborious, error-prone, and time-consuming. Indeed, conventional computer-based label printing processes often require employees to correctly follow multiple steps each time they wish to print a label.

First, workers must physically get to a computer, which may not be conveniently located. Then they must open the necessary software, find the required data, manually enter the information, and attempt to position the information correctly for printing. Finally, they can print the label. This approach offers many opportunities for human error, especially if the label contains multiple lines of information. If it doesn’t print correctly, looks like you expected, or is inaccurate, it’s back to square one.

Automated on-demand technologies such as scan-to-print and barcode label design enable businesses of all sizes to streamline and modernize warehouse operations.

With a scan-to-print application, employees simply scan the barcode associated with the label, then print the label with the variable data included. No workstation, laptop or mobile device is needed. Built-in design solutions make it easy to create and customize label templates, further streamlining the process. For example, manufacturers can mark products with date, serial number, model number, barcode, QR code, and other data, while warehouses or third-party logistics providers (3PL) can print barcode labels with goods receipt data and time, or post-date with new order, due date or expiration date.

Labeling Process Improvement Strategies

By speeding up the creation and printing of accurate barcode labels, automated systems increase productivity, efficiency and profitability. Here are seven strategies to transform processes and generate rapid ROI, from inventory management to the receiving dock.

Evaluate your current labeling flow. Incoming goods need receiving labels, bulk dispatch labels, item labeling and return labels. Is your current label creation process simple and logical? Where are there gaps or long wait times? What causes these slowdowns? For example, are they related to labeling technology, poor printer placement, inefficient processes, or a combination of factors?

Update and simplify label creation. Too often, warehouses continue to rely on labeling software from the last decade or software that is no longer supported. Newer solutions or the latest version of current software allow you to operate with greater agility and efficiency. With the right software and the right printers, you can increase speed, compliance, accuracy and data security. Label design software with intuitive user interfaces and built-in wizards makes it easy to generate new barcodes or design new labels, and saves time by helping users get it right the first time. The software also frees up expensive IT staff to focus on performing higher value tasks.

Simplify access to label files and printing. With increasing regulatory compliance standards, faster time-to-market, and the frequent need to add or change suppliers due to supply issues, browser-based label file access and l printing for supplier networks makes speed and compliance much faster and easier.

Empower employees. End users can deploy label printers that are fast, reliable, intuitive to use, easy to maintain, and offer true WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) printing. Changing media should be quick and simple, reducing downtime and frustration. And learning to use the system shouldn’t require extensive training.

Choose the right equipment. Invest in printers that are durable, powerful and versatile. The ability to produce a variety of high resolution labels with barcode read integrity at high speeds is also essential.

Take advantage of centralized licensing. Standardize, consolidate, and synchronize licenses to ease the workload on your IT team.

Collaborate with professional services teams. Extend your limited human resources with expert help in label creation, label file conversion, installation, training and custom interface development.

Software and hardware features

The best barcode label printing system is the one that meets your specific needs, both from a software and hardware perspective. And it’s essential to ensure that the software and hardware solutions you invest in work together seamlessly.

Good software includes the following features:

  • Triggers print jobs from devices that are currently part of your labeling environment, such as scanners, scales, and keyboards.
  • Uses forms during the print process that can separate print uses from the design interface, ensuring data is formatted correctly and no unintended changes are made.
  • Prints barcode labels from Excel or another database like Access, SQL or an EPR system, eliminating manual touchpoints.
  • Integrates with ERP, WMS or custom front-end system for print automation, automatically populating your labels with the correct data.
  • Uses native built-in printer drivers. Better software-to-hardware connections mean faster print speeds, greater accuracy and improved efficiency.
  • Supports traceability-based labeling.
  • Provides scalability that allows you to easily add new users, sites or vendors or upgrade to more robust label management software as your business needs change.

Hardware features include:

  • Supports versatility by including a variety of mobile and compact desktop printer options to meet multiple workflow needs.
  • Uses rugged construction with reinforced parts, industrial-grade buttons, drop protection, and IP54 certification to ensure the printers can withstand harsh warehouse conditions and constant use by multiple workers.
  • Includes the improved print speeds and long battery life that are essential for consistently producing high-resolution labels with barcode scanning integrity throughout every shift.
  • Incorporates an active docking station, visible LCD display, simple charging, one-touch pairing, remote updating and configuration, easy-to-insert and change mounts, and automatic winders improve productivity, worker satisfaction and safety.
  • Integrates Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connectivity to allow workers to print labels anytime, anywhere. Dual-radio options take flexibility and reliability to the next level, ensuring maximum signal strength even in notoriously poor network environments like warehouses.

Persistent supply chain challenges have intensified pressure on manufacturers and 3PLs to streamline and modernize warehouse operations to stay competitive. Investing in innovative, state-of-the-art barcode and label printing systems saves time, reduces costs and improves accuracy, allowing businesses to more effectively keep pace with relentless customer demand in today’s particularly challenging environment.

Nick D’Alessio is Senior Director of Business Development at Brother Mobile Solutions. Travis Wayne is Product Manager at TEKLYNX.

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